The Epilogue

13. Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, 26:1-28:20

x] The burial of Jesus


On the Friday evening, Joseph of Arimathea gains permission from Pilate to take the body of Jesus for burial. Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, watch on as Joseph places the body of Jesus in his own new tomb. The religious authorities, concerned that Jesus' disciples may attempt to steal the body, secure from Pilate guards to seal and protect the tomb.


The site of Jesus' burial is properly witnessed and is secured by the secular authorities.


i] Context: See 26:1-16.


ii] Structure: This passage, The Burial of Jesus, presents as follows:

Joseph lays Jesus to rest, v57-61;

The tomb is secured, v62-66.


iii] Interpretation:

Matthew's account of Jesus' death and burial emphasizes the facts of the event. Witnesses can confirm that it was Jesus who was crucified, that he was laid to rest in a well-known empty tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, that the tomb was supervized by the religious authorities, and that it was secured by guards provided by the secular authorities. Jesus did die and was buried.


Sometime late on Friday afternoon, just before the commencement of the Sabbath that evening, Joseph from Arimathea goes to Pilate personally and asks him to release Jesus' body to him - an action in line with the Jewish custom that a body should not hang on a tree overnight, Deut.21:22-23. The village of Arimathea is identified with the modern village of Rentis, although other sites have been suggested. Obviously, Joseph, a disciple of Jesus, is a person of some account and so is able to gain traction with Pilate. Joseph wraps Jesus' body in a clean linen shroud and places it in his own new tomb, a tomb only recently cut out of a rock face. The tomb entrance is sealed with a large bolder, with the whole process witnessed by "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary."

On the next day, although it is the Sabbath, the religious authorities seek from Pilate the provision of a guard for the tomb. They had remembered Jesus' teachings that on the third day he would rise from the dead, and so they wanted to make sure that none of disciples could steal the body. The religious authorities knew well enough that a false rumor promoting a resurrected Jesus would cause more harm than his messianic claims. Pilate agrees to their request, providing them with soldiers to stand guard at the tomb under their direction. So, they set the guard, and seal the tomb to make sure than no one interferes with Jesus' body.


There is much of value in Beare's commentary on this gospel, but his inclination to downgrade material peculiar to Matthew is less than helpful. He argues that Matthew's account of Jesus' burial, v62-66, is "legendary", "a Christian fabrication", "the most extravagant of inventions" created to counter the claim by the Jewish authorities that Jesus never rose from the dead. "It is doubtful if Jesus received any more distinguished burial than the criminals who were crucified with him; their bodies would be put in a trench and covered with earth by soldiers."


iv] Synoptics

Matthew aligns with Mark in v57-61, cf., Mark15:42-47. There are the usual minor differences: Matthew has Joseph as a disciple, Mark has him "waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God"; Matthew leaves out Pilate's surprise on hearing that Jesus was already dead and of Pilate's move to confirm this fact. These changes to Mark's account may be down to Matthew, but they can just as easily be the product of Matthew's own independent source. Verses 62-66 are particular to Matthew. D&A suggest that the verses derive from a traditional self-contained piece (made up of 27:62-66, 28:2-4, and 28:11-15) which Matthew has inserted in the Markan / protoMark-oral tradition available to him. The piece is not typical of Matthew. It has also found its way into the apocryphal gospel of Peter. The tradition certainly serves to counteract a Jewish polemic against the resurrection. This could explain its creation, but it would also explain its preservation.

Text - 27:57

The Burial of Jesus, v57-61: i] Joseph lays Jesus to rest, v57-61. Joseph from Arimathea is mentioned in all four gospels with respect to the burial of Jesus. Luke notes that he was a "councillor", which presumably means he was a member of the Sanhedrin; this would explain John's note "secretly for fear of the Jews." Joseph probably now lives in Jerusalem, which is why he has his own tomb.

de "-" -but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

genomenhV (ginomai) gen. aor. part. "as [evening] approached" - [evening] having become [a rich man came]. The genitive participle with the genitive noun "evening" forms a genitive absolute construction, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "When it was evening", TEV.

apo + gen. "from [Arimathea]" - Expressing source / origin; "a wealthy man from Aramathea", Barclay.

tounaoma (a atoV) "named [Joseph]" - Crasis to onoma, with the accusative being adverbial, so "named, by name."

kai "-" - and = also [who he himself was a disciple]. Adverbial use of the conjunction, adjunctive, "also". Note the emphatic use of the personal pronoun autoV, "he" = "he himself", as NIV. "He too had become one of Jesus' disciples", Cassirer.

tw/ Ihsou (oV) "of Jesus" - to jesus. Dative of reference / respect, identifying "the teacher to whom the disciple submitted", Quarles.


Given the requirements of Sabbath law, Joseph had to act quickly before sunset to gain permission to remove Jesus' body and prepare it for burial.

proselqwn (prosercomai) aor. part. "going to" - [he] having come to. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to ask."

tw/ Pilatw/ (oV) dat. "Pilate" - pilate, [he asked for the body, corpse, of jesus]. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to come/go to."

tote adv. "and" - then. Transitional use of the temporal adverb indicating a step in the narrative,

apodoqhnai (apodidwmi) "that it be given" - [pilate commanded, instructed it] to be given. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Pilate orders; "that it be given to him." "Pilate gave orders for the body to be given to Joseph", TEV.


Matthew doesn't go into the use of spices in preparation for burial, as does John.

labwn (lambanw) aor. part. "[Joseph] took [the body]" - [and] having taken [the body]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to wrap."

en + dat. "in [a clean linen cloth]" - [joseph wrapped it] in [a pure linen]. Variant reading, but either way, the following dative is either local, as NIV, or instrumental, "with ..." Only Matthew says the "linen" = "linen sheet / winding-sheet / shroud" is kaqaroV, "pure". This may imply that the sheet is "clean", as NIV, or even possibly "new", or "white", so Hagner. Given Matthew's background, he may well mean pure in the sense of ritually pure, a woven cloth that is not made up of blended material; "a pure linen shroud."


Luz suggests "that the narrators picture the place of Jesus burial as a bench or trough rather than as an opening at right angles to the chamber wall into which the body was thrust." None-the-less, many graves excavated from this time indicate that the common method of burial for those of high status was a 50cm. square hole dug 2 meters into a rock face and closed off with a square slab of rock. John, in his gospel, seems to envisage something larger than a hole.

proskulisaV(proskuliw) aor. part. "he rolled [a big stone]" - [and placed it in the new, unused, tomb of him which he cut in the rock, and] having rolled [a large stone to the door of the tomb, he left]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to leave, go away, depart", but it may also be treated as adverbial, temporal, "after rolling a large bolder to the opening of the tomb, he went away", Moffatt.

th/ qura/ (a) dat. "in front of the entrance" - to the doorway, entrance. Dative of indirect object, but possibly local, so Quarles.


The witness of the two women to Jesus death and burial makes "their testimony to his rising ... all the stronger", Hare. The "other Mary" is not Mary the mother of Jesus, but most likely the mother of James and Joses, cf., v56.

h\n (eimi) imperf. "-" - [but/and mary magdalene] was [there]. France notes the change from the aorist in the previous verse to an imperfect in this verse, indicating that "the women are still there, watching."

kaqhmenai (kaqhmai) pres. mid. part. "were sitting" - [and the other mary] sitting [opposite the grave]. The participle is often linked with the imperfect verb to-be h\n to produce a periphrastic imperfect construction, as NIV, etc., so Quarles. The problem is that the verb to-be is singular, but the participle is plural, indicating they are not functioning together, so it is probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "Mary Magdalene was there and the other Mary sitting opposite the tomb", Berkeley, so Cassirer, " ... were present, sitting opposite ...", Barclay, etc.; see Olmstead. The focus was originally on Mary Magdalene, so a singular verb, but the other Mary is now included, so plural; both are sitting. The act of sitting is an expression of "mourning and weeping", D&A.


ii] The tomb is secured, v61-66. As already noted, Beare is dismissive of this apologetic tale, arguing that the religious authorities would not have known about Jesus' claim to rise on the third day since it was not an issue taught in public, that the religious authorities would not approach Pilate on the Sabbath, but would have made arrangement to secure the tomb on Friday afternoon, and that Pilate would not be supplying soldiers to guard a tomb from people who want to promote a "wild fancy" by stealing a body. When picking and choosing what parts of the tradition have merit, we rely heavily on rational thought, but rational thought is severely limited in beings affected by sin. The rational mind quickly rationalizes the miraculous; only faith can conceive the impossible. In the case before us, we are not even dealing with the impossible, just the possible - a living verifiable tradition (it is likely that some apostles are still alive at the time of writing). Still, D&A state "the story does not compel as history", contra Craig, The Guard at the Tomb, NTS 30, p273-81.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

th/ ... epaurion dat. "the next day" - on the tomorrow. Dative of time.

meta + acc. "after [Preparation Day]" - [which is] after [the preparation]. Temporal use of the preposition.

proV + acc. "went to [Pilate]" - [the chief priests and the pharisees were gathered together] toward [pilate]. Expressing movement toward, "approached Pilate", Rieu. "The chief priests and the Pharisees met with Pilate", TEV.


We have no record of Jesus' publicly teaching about his resurrection, but he may well have explained to the authorities what he meant by "destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days", Jn.2:19, cf., Matt, 26:61, 27:40. As France notes, there is no reason why Judas wouldn't have told the authorities about Jesus' claim to rise from the dead.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "they said" - saying [sir]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to gather together", v62. "'Your Excellency', they said", Rieu.

oJti "-" - [we remembered] that [that deceiver, imposter, fraud, said]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they remembered.

zwn (zaw) pres. part. "while he was [still] alive" - [still] living. The participle, modified by the temporal adverb expressing contemporaneous time eti, "still, yet", is adverbial, temporal, as NIV; "when that imposter was alive", Moffatt.

meta + acc. "after" - after [three days i will be raised]. Temporal use of the preposition. Note the theological / divine passive, "I will be raised"; God does the raising!


The religious authorities are trying to forestall any attempt to create a faked resurrection.

oun "so" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion; "In view of this", Barclay.

asfalisqhsan (asfalizw) aor. pas. part. "to be made secure" - [ye give orders the grave, tomb] to be made sure, guarded. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect discourse expressing what Pilate should order, namely, "that the tomb be made secure." "Tomb" serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive. "Please issue orders for special security measures to be taken in regard to the tomb for the next three days", Barclay.

eJwV + gen. "until" - until [the third day]. Temporal use of the preposition expressing time up to; "until".

mhpote + subj. "otherwise" - that not = lest [the disciples of him having come might steal it and might say]. This construction introduces a negated purpose clause, "that not ...." = "in order that his disciples may not come and steal it and say."

elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "[his disciples] may come" - having come. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the subjunctive verbs "might steal" and "might say"; "may not come and steal it and say."

tw/ law/ (oV) dat. "[tell] the people" - [might say] to the people. Dative of indirect object.

apo + gen. "from [the dead]" - [he has been raised] from [the dead]. Expressing separation; "away from."

kai "-" - and. Here expressing result; "with the result that the fraud would be more insidious than when it first began."

thV prowthV gen. adj. "[worse] than the first" - [and the last error, deception, fraud will be worse] of the first. The genitive is ablative, of comparison, "worse than the first." "We should then be faced with a worse fraud than the first one", Phillips.


ecete (ecw) pres. ind./imp. "take [a guard]" - [pilate said to them] you have / may have [a guard of soldiers, go away and set a guard]. Probably a permissive imperative, "I grant you a guard of Roman soldiers", so Hagner, ..., but possibly an indicative, "you have", which would imply that the religious authorities have their own temple police and so, as far as Pilate is concerned, they can set their own guard at the tomb, so France, Green, ....

wJV "as [you know how]" - as, like [you know]. Comparative; "as you think necessary", Phillips.


de "so" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative; "They went and secured the tomb", Barclay.

oiJ "they" - The article serves as a pronoun, nominative subject of the participle "having gone."

poreuqenteV (poreuomai) aor. pas. part. "went" - having gone [guarded the grave]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to guard"; "They left and made the tomb secure", TEV.

sfragisanteV (sfragizw) aor. part. "by putting a seal [on the stone]" - having sealed [the stone]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as instrumental expressing means; "by sealing the stone", ESV.

meta + gen. "posting [the guard]" - with [the guard]. The preposition here is probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "they went and made the grave secure by putting a seal on the stone, leaving soldiers on guard", or attendant circumstance, "by putting a seal on the boulder and (by) setting the guard", Moffatt, as NIV.


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